DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 Dec 2021: Judiciary fails the environment AGAIN

By allowing the Char Dham Highway to go ahead, putting aside all the environment, safety, disaster vulnerability and even norms and affidavits of the Ministry of Highways and the Defence Ministry, as well as the report of the expert panel set up by the apex court, the Judiciary has again failed the Environment, among other things. This is contrary to the generally held belief that Judiciary stands up for the cause of the environment. That belief has no real basis, as can be seen again. This is also failure of the governance, experts and environmental groups, besides also the failure of the media too.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 Jan 2020: India urgently needs national urban water policy

A large number of stories this week remind us that India urgently needs national urban water policy.

The water footprint of urban areas is gradually on the rise. The cities have several problems with management including destruction of water sources, groundwater exploitation, poor performance in treating and recycling the polluted water, pollution and encroachment on water bodies etc. To fulfil their growing demands new dams, barrages and check dams are being planned, proposed and built on the rivers in faraway places, which is in turn displacing and depriving the local people of equitable water share.

Even before onset of summer, the Army in Sagar district have started patrolling Chitora dam to prevent water thefts (denying farmers to take dam water for irrigation).

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 Jan 2020: When will Inland Fisheries get its due in decisions about rivers & other water bodies?

In shocking instance, the Govt of India has provided just 17 days for commenting (Submission of Comments of NPSSFW _Inland_ on the Draft NFDB Bill 2019_ with rejoinder) on Draft National Policy for Inland Fisheries (Draft_NFDB_Bill_2019). As can be seen from the comments by National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (Inland) on the draft policy, the draft policy has major lacunae. The most glaring one is the complete lack of any role for the Inland fisher people in the decision making about rivers and other water bodies in India. Every dam and hydropower project has adverse impact on the fishes and fisher people, but the impact assessment reports rarely if ever even mention such impacts, leave aside question of any rehabilitation for them or even compensating them for the losses.

This is in complete contrast to the situation in US and a number of other countries where fish and fisher people have a much bigger role. Even as millions of people depend on Inland fisheries in India, we do not have even reliable census of the people who depend on Inland fisheries. One had hoped that in new year, the situation would improve, but going by the Draft Policy, there is not too much hope on that front. The least the govt can do is to immediately accept the suggestions of the National Platform and circulate the draft in all major languages and provide three months for comment period and institute a confidence inspiring process of including such comments.

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DRP News Bulletin 6 August 2018 (2018 is Deficient Monsoon for Lakhs of Farmers)

(Feature Image: IMD Sub-Division wise Weekly Rainfall Map 26 July – 1 Aug. 2018)

Amid news of monsoon being normal, farmers in several parts in the country have started facing irrigation water problems affecting sowing of Kharif crops. Apart from, insufficient rainfall, mismanagement of water resources is turning the situation grim for them.  

As per reports, water levels in Bhakra and Pong dams in Himachal has plunged to lowest in decades. As a result dam authority has issued advisory to lakhs of farmers in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan to use water judiciously. Some official also said that the beneficiary states lacks efficient water management practices which is making the situation tough for them.

The Sri Ram Sagar Project in Telangana has no irrigation water. As per state water minister, a Rs. 1100 crore work was going on to renovate the dam. Meanwhile farmers of about 24 villages have started protest demanding irrigation water form SRSP for their standing crops. Given the tense situation, the State Govt has deployed heavy police forces to control farmers agitation.

At the same time, farmers in North Gujarat farmers have lost 40% of sown crops particularly in Ahmedabad, Morbi and Surendranagar. Non availability of Narmada waters have added to the problems. It is worth to mention that mismanagement of water during past four months in Narmada dam by the authority, has worsened the plight of farmers. Meanwhile, there are reports of furious Surendranagar farmers themselves opening the dam gates going against authority.

Similarly, lack of rainfall in Beed district which is part of Marathwada in Maharashtra has affected the rural population badly. In fact, the rainfall situation in a fourth of India, including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, was in stark contrast to the rest of the country. Overall, the southwest monsoon in 2018 was only 2 % below normal by July, 27.

The southwest monsoon in Bihar was almost 40 % below normal till July 27 and the state was set to be formally declared ‘drought-hit’. It is worth to mention that the monsoon scenario seems less than reassuring, based on Skymet latest forecast and reading between the lines of IMD Aug. 3, press release.

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DRP News Bulletin 12 March 2018 (Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand To Go On Fast For Ganga)

Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand (Prof G D Agarwal formerly) writes to Prime Minister on Feb 24 with three demands on Ganga and says if these are not satisfied by Ganga Dashera (June 22, 2018), he will go on fast unto death. The three demands are: 1. stop work on Vishnugad Pipalkoti, Singoli Bhawari and Phata Byung HEPs 2. Pass in Parliament the Draft Ganga protection act drafted by Just (retired) Girdhar Malviya headed committee and 3. Create a National Ganga follower committee whose permission will be necessary before taking any decision about Ganga. See the detailed blog by Arun Tiwari ji and link to the letter to PM. http://hindi.indiawaterportal.org/Swami-Sananda-open-letter-pm-modi-clean-ganga

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DRP News Bulletin 5 March 2018 (Will India Face An Unprecedented Water Crisis This Summer?)

Residents of Muruga Tholuvu Harijan Colony in Chennimalai Union have urged the district administration to take steps to provide them water on a regular basis. In a petition, they said that villagers have to go in search of water from other areas and transport it in bicycles regularly. They said that most of the people were labourers and their livelihood is lost when they go in search for water. They said that the situation is worse during summer season, as water is not available at nearby areas and they are unable to purchase water from the market too. http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/provide-drinking-water-villagers/article22935093.ece (The Hindu, 5 March 2018)

With the beginning of summer season, there are several news reports describing the growing water crisis in different parts of country. Here are details of various Indian states suffering from  water scarcity for industrial, irrigational and even for drinking purposes which given the due summer months could develop into grim scenario. These stories also show how the mismanagement of dam storages, exploitation of ground water resources and pollution of rivers have significant role in aggravating the situation.

Gujarat The state is staring at a water crisis this summer, with low water levels in the Narmada dam and almost all other major dams. On March 3, the CM Vijay Rupani has held a meeting with senior minister and bureaucrats to take stock of the water situation in the state and discussed ways to ensure drinking water availability. The government also has decided to allocate Rs 200 crore in special grants for augmentation of local water sources and instructed all collectors to form district committees, have weekly review meetings and start supply of water by tankers wherever required.

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DRP News Bulletin 19 February 2018 (How Are We Treating Our Urban Rivers?)

In this comprehensive article Mumbai-based author Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar throws the light on the plight of Uraban Rivers. “Rivers and streams have borne the brunt of the recent urban explosion in India, a nation whose population has nearly doubled in the last 40 years to 1.35 billion. Unplanned growth has led to the use of water bodies as dumping grounds for sewage and industrial effluent. According to CPCB, 63 % of the urban sewage flowing into rivers (some 62 billion liters a day) is untreated.

In addition, riverbanks, wetlands, and floodplains have been claimed over time by infrastructure, slums, offices, and housing developments – all of which has narrowed natural river channels and distorted flow, greatly reducing the ability of India’s rivers to buffer flooding. It also has taken a toll on biodiversity. http://e360.yale.edu/features/dying-waters-india-struggles-to-clean-up-its-polluted-urban-rivers (Yale Environment 360, 15 Feb. 2018) 

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DRP News Bulletin 12 February 2018 (With Innovative Ideas Hyderabad, Chennai & Delhi Are Reviving Its Wetlands)

This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi.  In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)

Image by: Madhulika Choudhary

Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)

Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months.  This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.

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DRP News Bulletin 29 January 2018 (Organic Farming Through Cluster Approach Can Help Farmers, Groundwater And Our Future)

There have been many positive developments on agriculture, groundwater and environment round the week. In the first positive development, data from the first impact study of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) shows that small and marginal farmers, who can’t afford costly agricultural inputs, are turning a new leaf by going organic because of lower costs and higher margins. The study conducted by the National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management, has also revealed that Net Returns of organic farmers were higher for all the three crops studied, namely wheat, paddy and soybean, by 15.8%, 36.7% and 50% respectively.

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This was based on study of 690 organic clusters in 25 states, out of some 6211 clusters comprising of 2.25 lakh farmers in a PKVY (each ha getting Rs 50 000 as aid) scheme launched in 2015, comprising of 52.3% small farmers. The average cluster size was 69 acres, in each there were 54.6 farmers on average. Maharashtra had the highest number of clusters at 1043 and MP had the highest area under clusters. The funding however remained irregular. India’s domestic organic food market is expected to show Compound Annual Growth rate of 25%, says the study. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/small-farmers-go-big-with-organic-farming/story-nlyQQVUnoewHgeJyvaAnJI.html (Hindustan Times, 29 January 2018)

Another positive news report, have disclosed that how a simple groundwater recharge technique is transforming farmlands in Gujarat. The simple pit and pipe system simply and expertly captures standing water during rains, thus freeing arable land from water logging while recharging groundwater to use for irrigation during the lean season. This is essentially a simple groundwater recharge scheme but appears to last long. As per report about 3000 such units have already been installed in Gujarat and several other states.  http://www.thehindu.com/society/this-simple-technology-has-transformed-gujarat-farmlands-into-an-oasis/article22529034.ece (The Hindu, 27 January 2018)

The third positive news have come from Central Government which has prepared a Rs 6000 crore plan to recharge ground water. The scheme is yet to be cleared by the Expenditure Finance Committee and the Cabinet.  

As per report, the new 5-yr long scheme will be funded 50: 50 by the World Bank and centre, to be implemented in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Rajasthan, covering 78 districts, 193 blocks and 8300 gram panchayats.

Gram Panchayats that prepare water security plans and put infrastructure to augment water supply will get incentives. Interestingly, an earlier version of the scheme, called National Groundwater Management Improvement Scheme was rejected by AFC in May 2017.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/centre-readies-rs-6-000-crore-plan-to-recharge-groundwater/story-nziZ6rvp88ZJHFo0DM5kNO.html (Hindustan Times, 28 January 2018)  

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DRP News Bulletin 15 January 2018 (Do We Care About Rivers’ Aquatic Bio-diversity?)

Great to see this focus on aquatic biodiversity (unfortunately the article keeps using the word marine biodiversity, not using the word aquatic or freshwater biodiversity even once) along the 120 km long Sindhudurg Coast line, one of the 11 ecologically sensitive habitats identified along India’s coasts.

The FIRST study of local Otter Population by Ela Foundation identified upto 591 Smooth coated otters (strangely article does not mention about existence of small clawed Otters in Sindhudurg), 561 Indo Pacific humpbacked dolphins, among many others. The coast is particularly river rich with some twelve creeks/ rivers including Shanti, Piyali, Naringre, Achra, Gad, Talavade, Otawane and Pithdhaval Rivers.

The biodiversity here is facing multiple threats including rapid urbanisation, tourism onslaught with attendant plastic and sewage disposal, unregulated fishing trawlers, illegal sand mining, and global warming. It also underlines the need to do assessment of any interventions done in the area, of impacts on the aquatic biodiversity. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/orphans-in-the-wild-what-the-otter-s-trying-to-tell-us-about-our-oceans/story-IfRFFi63Q8nV7UkUK4c16O.html (The Hindustan Times, 14 January 2018)

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